Toronto the Good

Hello Dear Readers!

As many of you have likely noticed, Harrison tends to be in a lot of my blog posts. That would be because we are dating.

So, to that end, I went to meet his family this past September. Harrison happens to be Canadian, which is how I found myself for the very first time in the city of Toronto. I could talk crap about it, but I know he (and his family!) will read it, so I’ll refrain. Besides, I loved the city anyway. It’s large and metropolitan and really quite nice.

I will tell you that Harrison and I had been putting off meeting his family for over a year, as we both have serious commitment issues and he tends to be an overthinker. Nobody tell him I told you all that.

So the day finally came when I was to be introduced to his family, and it went a little like this: I flew in from one of my best friend’s wedding, where I was a bridesmaid:

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Hi Chrissy!

And Harrison picked me up at the airport. He and I both poorly played it cool as we rolled my suitcase to the car and got in. It was a half hour ride to his parent’s home, and we made awkward, stilted conversation as we drove.

The atmosphere in the car was morbid- as if we were making our last, trudging steps to the gallows. He white-knuckled the steering wheel as I clutched his hand ferociously, my mind whirling with fear. “What if they don’t like me? What if they think I’m…weird?

I mean, to be fair, I am weird. But they don’t need to know that!

Luckily, all my (and his) fears were for naught, as his family turned out to be amazing. I was greeted with hugs at the door, prompt bottles of wine, and excellent food. How much better could it be?

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Not pictured: all the amazing food we ate.

I also met all of his friends in a situtation that I-swear-was-not-like-a-gauntlet-of-introductions.

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In short, I had an amazing, happy time. Nothing to fear. Nothing at all.

Except for the Edgewalk, that is.

Yeah, that’s next.

-Carissa and Brit “Snackety Snack”

Happy Birthday Blog!

Hello Dear Readers!

Today is the 2nd birthday of my blog! It’s been a crazy two years, with so many changes I can’t even count. I’ve lived in four different countries, traveled so much my own family hardly recognizes me, and made friends across the world. To celebrate, I’ve made a map showing the countries I’ve traveled to since starting the blog:

And for those of you who are curious, here’s what my 2019 looks like so far:

  1. Spain
  2. Czech Republic
  3. Scotland (I can never get enough!)
  4. Israel
  5. Israel again
  6. Israel some more
  7. Japan
  8. England

In case you can’t tell, I’m trying to drastically cut down my travel this year, as my life begins to move into new stages. (Like, why did I have to get a job?) Also, traveling with Brit is going to present me with new and interesting challenges (like certain countries I can’t go to due to quarantine laws). But overall, that list looks good to me.

I’ve had a very blessed two years and my heart is full.

Life is good.

-Carissa, Harrison, and Brit “You Got Any More of Them Snacks?!”

 

Israel! Again!

Hello Dear Readers!

Another picture post today, as I spent the entirety of my summer volunteering at a nonprofit in Tel Aviv teaching Arabic. This was an interesting lesson for me. You see, I have always been an idealist, thinking that being a certified granola crunching woman of the land was my calling (never mind my air-travel pollution). So when I volunteered to teach at a nonprofit over the summer I thought a few things.

1. Finally! I’ll be able to make a difference!

2. Nonprofits are what I want to do for a living.

3. I can totally live on a pauper’s salary.

So, to no one’s surprise but my own, only 1 out of 3 of these thoughts was actually true. (#1, if you’re unsure). It turns out that the girl who flies around first class as much as possible isn’t exactly…stoked about working in a non-air conditioned office in 114 degree weather and 100% humidity.

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Pictured: My glorious office

Not that I’m complaining. I mean, I am. But it was a valuable experience, teaching, and I learned a great many things. I love helping people, that’s true.

But maybe I would prefer to help people somewhere cold. In the winter. With warm pajamas. Enjoy!

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I know it doesn’t look like I should be complaining, but It. Was. So. Hot.
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In Netanya, the beach full of Russians.
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Harrison gave me endless shit for hauling these rollerblades through Vietnam so I could rollerblade down the Tel Aviv boardwalk. I showed him by skating exactly once all summer long.
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I even got a nephew!
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Me attempting to take Hebrew classes. !נו
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At Machne Yehuda shuk.

-Carissa and Brit “Basically Snow White”

The Rest of Vietnam

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s now been six months since Harrison and I went to Vietnam. Ok, ok, I get it. I should have written about it. But I’ve been doing so many other things! So, since I’ve got so much more to write about…here are a boatload of Vietnam photos. Enjoy, and try not to be too disappointed in me!

The Cu Chi Tunnels

For those of you who don’t know, the Cu Chi Tunnels are where the Viet Cong hid and lived during the Vietnam War. They’re these insanely tiny holes in the ground, with slightly larger caves that functioned as homes.

No, I would not have survived that war.

Nowadays, they’ve enlarged some of the tunnels for us huge westerners to crawl through, and maintain an open air museum displaying some of the more creative techniques the Viet Cong used to fight the west.

Me crawling unhappily into a tiny tunnel.
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What if you fell in??
Harrison bravely disappearing into a tunnel. No, I didn’t try it.

I didn’t shoot this godforsaken thing either.

Worst Tour Ever?

You actually could not pay me to eat this.
Floating down the Mekong Delta.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?
Riding the world’s saddest horse.
Ooh look…cocoa
Foolish. So foolish. (This is a shot of snake wine, in case you didn’t know).

On Our Street Food Tour

Sometimes I look like a young boy. It’s sexy, I know.
And sometimes Harrison is pressured into buying me flowers.

Our Ho Chi Minh City Slums Tour

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On Our Second Street Food Tour

In the backpackers district, post tour.
Yeah, we ate that.

Me, shortly before breaking my tiny plastic stool. Don’t worry, the shop owner doubled them up for my large American behind.

Wandering Ho Chi Minh

At one of the city’s best rooftop restaurants.
Harrison getting the world’s most baller shave.

-Carissa and Brit The Snack

Home Again

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been an awfully long few months, and much to everyone’s relief, I haven’t died, fallen off a cliff, or otherwise injured myself. I’ve simply been very busy.

When last we spoke I was still in school (technically), funemployed, and traveling. Well, as all of you may have guessed, I am still traveling. In fact, I’m on a plane to Georgia (the country) right now. However, I have also officially graduated from the University of Edinburgh.

With honors!

And gotten myself a job. You’ll all be pleased to know that it’s fully remote, so yours truly can continue to wander around the world, doing whatever I please.

Ok, that last part wasn’t quite true. I’d like to introduce you all to Brit, my service dog.

She and I were paired just about a month ago, and she’s going to be my best companion from now on. You see, sometimes some bad things happen. And some bad things happened to me while I was in the Air Force. But sometimes there are some people who care, truly care, about you, and want to see you well. And for that I am eternally grateful.

Brit and I will see you all soon.

-Carissa “This Able Veteran Is The Best” Rawson

Hot Ho Chi Minh, Or: The Saigon Sweats

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve been very busy this last month attempting to get my life together as I transition from student to *gasp* a real-life adult!

No, I’m not looking forward to the change. But alas, time creeps onward and as it’s nearing my 29th birthday I feel I should at least make some effort to settle my life.

But before that, let’s talk about Ho Chi Minh!

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As most people probably know, Southeast Asia is generally very inexpensive, and Vietnam is no exception. This was lucky, as Harrison and I were spending two entire weeks, and our itinerary consisted of “literally anything I could find.” All told, our entire week in Ho Chi Minh totaled just under $300 for the both of us, and included a trip to the Mekong Delta, the Cu Chi Tunnels, two full food tours, an acrobatic show, and a motorbike tour of Ho Chi Minh’s slums. It’s a good deal, is what I’m saying.

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Also really cool

Such low costs enabled us to pig out on all the food, and I made it a personal mission to try out all of Ho Chi Minh’s best restaurants.

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Creepily

It’s also important to note that Vietnam is…warm. More than that, it’s humid. I’m talking, 105 degrees and 100% humidity humid. I spent our entire trip three feet away from Harrison and threatening him with death if he got any nearer. Luckily for the both of us, he didn’t try, as the “Saigon Sweats” (as he termed them) had an even worse effect on him than me.

So yeah, maybe don’t bring your first date to Vietnam. It’ll be sweaty and not in a fun sexy way.

One of our very first stops in Ho Chi Minh was the Heart of Darkness Brewery, which is absolutely an expat bar and I loved, enjoying an excellent British Sunday Roast in true Vietnamese fashion. Before you all complain, we did eat mostly Vietnamese food, including some really wretched things we tried on our various food tours.

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Authentic

Most of our first day in Ho Chi Minh was spent wandering the city, getting a feel for the area around our hotel and attempting to acclimate to the weather. (Lol)

We spent ages walking around the city actually, including an accidental trip into the ghetto and a really ingenious ride on public transport back out. What struck me most about HCMC is probably the amount of markets- the sheer volume of them- and their size. Regular grocery stores aren’t really a thing. Markets are everywhere, for every different type of item, and we spent a significant portion of time wandering through them.

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So
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Many
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Markets

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Also, in case anyone young (me) doesn’t have some firsthand memories of the Vietnam war and its effects- it’s still very much alive in Vietnam. This is evidenced by Ho Chi Minh’s War Remnants Museum, formerly named the “Exhibition House for U.S. and Puppet Crimes,” which showcases the “U.S. Aggressive War in Vietnam.” Basically, the communists won and ever since have set up this museum filled with downed American Aircraft and grim images of Agent Orange and its aftereffects. As a former U.S. servicemember, I was more than a little uncomfortable (and pissed), and insisted that we leave once we had explored a few of its halls.

The rest of the trip was quite enjoyable, however, and quite a few Vietnamese folk made certain to explain to us that “We love Americans!” in an effort to be friendly.

Next up are the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta, so stay tuned.

-Carissa “Always an Airman” Rawson

Phu Quoc

My project is done, my internship is drawing to a close, and I’ve yet to regale you all with stories about Vietnam.

Pine no more, because today we’re starting.

So, Harrison and I spent a total of two weeks in Vietnam. The first week was in Phu Quoc at the J.W. Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, which I had booked specifically because it’s themed as an an ex-school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And if you guys know me at all, you know I love me some Witchcraft and Wizardry.

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I used a free seven night certificate to book the hotel, which meant that our stay was technically free.

I say technically because while the room was paid for, our various activities were not. And it was very much a resort, with cooking classes, yoga on the beach, bike rides around town- you name it, it was available. And we did most all of them.

But before I talk about the activities, I want to take a minute to show you guys this hotel. It’s really up there in terms of design and architecture, and has some of the coolest theming I’ve ever seen. It only opened late last year and had been on my list ever since, so I was really stoked to go.

Now like I said before, we stayed at this hotel for a total of seven nights. That meant we had seven days to kill with various activities:

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Wishing I was dead after a ridiculously difficult bike ride to a bee farm
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Learning how to make Vietnamese coffee
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Attempting- poorly- to cook Vietnamese food

And seven days to swim in the water and enjoy the pools:

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And eat some intensely confusing “science” food:

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There’s not a ton else to say about the week, as we did what most people do during beach vacations: we relaxed.

Though we did end up going one night to the Phu Quoc night market, which Harrison loved and I nearly threw up in due to the dried octopus and various other unsavory scents.

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UUGGGHH

Tomorrow, Ho Chi Minh and the hundred thousand things we did there.

-Carissa “It’s Over!” Rawson

A Quick Update

Hello Dear Readers!

It’s been a very long time since I last posted, and a very busy last month I’ve had. I’ve been working here in Tel Aviv full time as an Arabic teacher/Translator/Literally any other work that needs doing. I’m also trying to finish up my final project for University. So you can say that it’s been…hectic.

That being said, I’ve still got my two weeks in Vietnam to tell you guys about- I haven’t forgotten! But since I’m a little too busy at the moment (my project is due this Thursday), you guys will have to make do with some photos instead.

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Harrison drank this.
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And I can’t back down from a challenge.
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We spent our first week on the beach in Phu Quoc

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This included Harrison’s first ever night market experience.
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And my first ever attempt to make shrimp pancakes. It didn’t go well.
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Our second week was in Ho Chi Minh- which is huge.
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Yes, this was massively uncomfortable. 

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We ate our way around the entire city,
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Boated down the Mekong Delta,
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And made really questionable decisions.

See you all soon for story time!

-Carissa “Someone Please Help Me I’m Stressed” Rawson

A Thousand Photos

Hello Dear Readers!

Before I get deep into my Vietnam posts, I wanted to show you guys all these extra photos that I have. They span from the month or so after Cairo and before Hong Kong, during which I spent two weeks in Edinburgh and two weeks in California visiting family.

Enjoy!

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When I got back to Edinburgh I tried to do all the things I hadn’t yet done.
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These are from my visit to the cat cafe.
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Edinburgh Botanic Gardens
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Celebrating post-exams at the Dome (and Eleana’s birthday!)

 

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Shahnaz’s birthday at the Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival
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Took the first train out of Waverly Station. Ended up at Sir Walter Scott’s house in Tweedbank
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Business class back home to California, for which I squatted overnight in an airport like a hobo.
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The Hotel Del Coronado!

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My little sister, Jill, whose baby Charlie is almost due!
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One of my best friends, Monica, came to visit. I will literally never live this karate photo down.

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-Carissa “Help Me I Have a Travel Addiction” Rawson

Fancy First Class

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve just spent the last two weeks in Vietnam and have now safely arrived to Tel Aviv. For those of you who don’t know, I’m volunteering to teach Arabic at an NGO for the summer while I finish up my Master’s degree. Tel Aviv is a beautiful city, so I’m glad to be here.

Now, before I start telling you guys my adventures about Vietnam (and Hong Kong), I need to tell you all how I got there. This is a points and miles blog as well, after all.

So.

Marriott has what’s called Air and Hotel packages. These cost 270,000 Marriott points, and in return you receive 120,000 frequent flier miles from the airline of your choosing and seven nights at any category 1-5 Marriott hotel. I’m not expanding much on this because as of August first these packages are being highly devalued, so it’s not worth it to spend time discussing these. Suffice to say that I redeemed my points and chose to receive my 120,000 miles into my Alaska Airlines account.

I did this for many reasons, not the least of which is Alaska Airlines’ extremely lucrative partnerships with other airlines, which means you can get a lot of value out of redeeming their miles. Additionally, they’re considered some of the highest value miles (as opposed to, say, Delta), so they’re worth going for even if you’re not located in an area very conducive to Alaska flights. (Like me, in the Middle East).

Alaska has some really good award chart redemptions, (see their chart here for the ‘sweet spots’), and I redeemed 70,000 of my 120,000 miles in order to fly Cathay Pacific first class to Ho Chi Minh with a two day stopover in Hong Kong (Alaska will allow you to make stopovers for free on award flights, which many other airlines don’t do). This one way ticket would have otherwise cost me over $8,000, so I consider these miles well spent.

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Not including my onward flight to Ho Chi Minh

Cathay Pacific is meant to have some of the best first class services out there, so I was more than a little jazzed to be spending 13 hours on board this flight. I know, I know, who wants to climb onto an airplane for a long ass flight?

This girl!

And literally everyone else who loves champagne and filet mignon and other fancy whatnots. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy (yes, I’m bragging.):

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Look at my poor attempt to capture how luxurious it was!
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Three windows all to myself. Seat 1a
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Did you guys know caviar is disgusting? I tried it because come on I had to, but I couldn’t even finish it.
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They even give you pajamas to keep!
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The flight attendant smiled at me knowingly after I asked for my sixth glass of champagne.
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Coming in to land at Hong Kong, refreshed and ready to sweat it out.

-Carissa “Already Back in Economy” Rawson